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Astier de Villatte

Astier de Villatte

Of all the magic words in the English language, ‘Paris’ must be pretty close to the top. What other word can conjure trimmed topiary, flaky croissants, the sound of parquetry creaking underfoot, red lipstick, narrow, cobblestoned streets, Monet’s waterlilies, carafes of wine at dusk, and windowboxes filled with red geraniums in two quick syllables?

The founders of Parisian lifestyle brand Astier de Villatte capture the essence of their city (and their brand) in one sentence: “If it’s beautiful, it’s ok.”

With a penchant for archaeology and nostalgia, and an unspoken mantra of ‘handmade in Paris’, you’d be forgiven for assuming that this powerhouse brand is as old as its collaborators.  (A la Mere de la Famille, with whom Astier de Villatte partnered to create the perfect ceramic Easter egg cup, for example, is the oldest sweets store in Paris.)

But despite their tiny flagship boutique (a former silversmith workshop on Rue Saint-Honoré) remaining relatively unchanged since the 18th century, Astier de Villatte are newcomers to the city – in Parisian terms, anyway. The company was conceived in 1996 and they didn’t open the doors to their now must-visit retail destination until 2000.  

The founders of the brand, friends Benoît Astier de Villatte and Ivan Pericoli, describe themselves as designers, not businesspeople.  They met in the nineties at the Beaux Arts in Paris and started out making furniture together.

“We’re inspired by things that are forgotten,” explains Benoît.  “Things that aren’t very well considered.”

The chalky white-glazed black terracotta ceramics, which are now the standard bearer of the brand, started out as a bit of an afterthought – something pretty to put on the furniture they were designing.

The ceramics were made in the manner that Benoît had been taught by his father – a Villa Medici artist in his own right – and were left rough and unfinished.  (Mostly because they didn’t know how to make them properly, Benoît says.) It wasn’t until their first few customers started asking if the ceramics were food-safe that the signature white glaze was added – a colour that, at the time, was deemed completely inappropriate for the French dinner table, which of course the subversive Frenchmen loved.

Over time, these objets found their way into the hearts and houses of some of the most stylish Parisians, interior designers and influencers in the world.   And these days the ceramics are handmade in a dedicated workshop by a crew of 25 French and Tibetan craftsmen working full time to keep up with demand.

The success of the project has allowed Astier de Villatte to pursue the other projects for which the brand has become so famous in more recent years, like its range of eau de colognes – which are now available in Sydney for the first time ever.

When it came to developing the olfactory arm of Astier de Villatte, Benoit and Ivan were inspired by the idea of a ‘still journey’ – being able to travel from your armchair at home, lost in thoughts and memories, simply by smelling something.

And who better to bring the range to life than Francoise Caron? This Grasse-born perfumer extraordinaire has a perfume pedigree like no other, and has created fragrances for Christian Lacroix, Helmut Lang, and most famously, L’Eau d’Orange Verte for Hermes. 

A true eau de cologne, named after the city in which it originated, must have a low alcohol content, a citrus base and should be refreshing and cooling.

“An eau de cologne needs to be simple, with top notes that aren’t heavy, that don’t purport to stay on long; yet simplicity doesn’t mean an absence of personality, either,” Francoise has said.

The Astier de Villatte eau de colognes are inspired by landscapes near and far – including Brazil, ancient Swedish forests, and even the environs of the brand’s muse, French artist Balthus: Switzerland’s Grand Chalet.  Eau Chic, one of the brand’s original Eau de Colognes with notes of rosemary, basil, ylang-ylang and lemon petite grand, sells so quickly that Astier de Villatte can barely keep up. One of the newest fragrances to the stable is Commune de Paris, which is made from Sicilian lemons, rosemary, bergamot, cedar wood and the mysterious benzoin, while the addictive, bitter orange Splash is the work of Karl Largerfeld’s perfumer of choice: Christophe Raynaud.  

The colognes were released to squeals of delight from Vogue, Wallpaper and the New York Times and their release to the world has been slow and purposeful, via a handful of carefully considered channels around the world.

After more than 12 months of discussions, the Astier de Villatte Eau de Cologne range is now available at both Sorry Thanks I Love You stores in Sydney.  A full presentation of the brand’s work, including Astier de Villatte’s iconic ceramics and gilt-edged stationery, will be available in store later in 2018.

While the collection can be viewed online, this is a range that really needs to be smelled to be believed.  The joy in each fragrance is palpable.

“If you don’t have pleasure doing what you do, you’re doing something wrong,” quips Benoit.  “You have to share with other people the pleasure you have doing things… And then maybe then other people are going to find it interesting.”


Shop Astier de Villatte’s eau de cologne collection in store now.